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Date: 16 October 2021

Time: 01:27

Umbrella - sexual health services for Birmingham and Solihull

Pharmacies improve access to sexual health services

Story posted/last updated: 20 June 2016

Pharmacies across Birmingham are working with the NHS to ensure the public know how to access high-quality sexual health services closer to their homes.

In partnership with Umbrella – the sexual health service run by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) – pharmacies are promoting their open access, free and confidential services to encourage more people to use them.

The aim is to shift the initial point of contact for some sexual health services from secondary to primary care and encourage more 15- to 24-year-olds to seek advice and treatment.

Jeff Blankley, Chairman of the Birmingham Local Pharmaceutical Committee, which is an Umbrella partner, said: “Pharmacies can offer a wider range of sexual health services than ever before and they feature in most local communities, so we should be encouraging people to use them.

“The fact that pharmacies can offer free, local advice and treatment without the need for an appointment and within more flexible hours will hopefully appeal to younger people who may not choose to make an appointment at a clinic.

“The more people we can encourage to come to us, the more we can collectively contribute to improving sexual health and reducing inequalities in provision of care.”  

Since Umbrella was launched in August 2015, the number morning after pills dispensed by partner pharmacists has grown from 365 to 810. In total, 7,130 morning-after pills have been dispensed by the partner pharmacies in that time.

Condom distribution through pharmacies has also grown: from just 29 packs in August 2015 to 167 in April 2016. The peak month was February 2016, when 239 packs were handed out.

The number of testing kits for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) dispensed has risen from 3 in August 2015 to 23 last month (April 2016), with a peak of 76 in October.

Total sexual health services, including the above, plus chlamydia treatment, and oral and injectable contraception, totalled 9,373 from August 2015 to April this year.

Historically, pharmacies have provided a range of sexual health services, including offering chlamydia testing as part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme, participation in condom schemes and the provision of emergency contraception.

Since April 2013, most sexual health services in England have been commissioned by local authorities (LAs), with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and NHS England also commissioning some services. The new framework has allowed some pharmacies to expand their sexual health role. As with GPs, this type of provision used to be arranged through Local Enhanced Service arrangements. Under the new framework, individual contracting arrangements have been put in place to cover this type of provision.

Umbrella has contracted 93 pharmacies to support delivery of its sexual health services, including testing for STIs, free condoms and the morning after pill.

Of these, 80 are classed as "Tier 1", offering:

  • signposting to chlamydia screening
  • morning after pill (including advanced provision)
  • condoms
  • a collection point for STI kits ordered online

The remaining 13 are "Tier 2", offering all of the above plus:

  • offering and initiating oral contraception
  • offering and initiating STI testing
  • dispensing treatment for STIs diagnosed elsewhere
  • hepatitis B vaccination (follow-up)
  • offering and initiating contraceptive injections
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